Luke 22:32 (KJV)
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Can a person be a disciple of Christ and not yet be converted? Many would say that when Christ spoke these words to Peter it was because he (Christ) had yet to go to the cross, but I’m not so sure. The reason I am uncertain is because of a few passages throughout the gospels, such as the ones telling us how to be a disciple of Christ. The requirements to become a disciple were “deny himself,” “take up his cross,” and “FOLLOW Christ.” Peter had been fulfilling these requirements for the last three and half years.
Matthew 16:24 (KJV)
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Peter was following Christ when the master spoke the words “when thou art converted.” By “taking up his cross and following Christ” Peter was a disciple. Numerous times throughout the gospels Christ refers to those that were following him as his “disciples.” It stands to reason then that someone can be a disciple of Christ and not be fully converted.
There is a particular passage recording the conversation between Peter and Christ detailing Peter’s discipleship –
Luke 18:28-30 (KJV)
28 Then Peter said, Lo, WE HAVE LEFT ALL, and followed thee.
29 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,
30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
It is clear that they had left all and were following Christ, and by the very definition a disciple. But, even though they were disciples they were not fully converted.
There are many that fit into this category today of merely being just a disciple. However, to be clear there is nothing wrong with being a disciple. We will always be a disciple continuing to learn from the master. The difference is being a disciple and converted at the same time. A disciple is a necessary step to take in order to be converted, but it is just a step.
The problem is many fail to continue on to be converted, and we know this from all the differences between beliefs and the carnal mindset of believers (for clarification, a carnal mindset is something else besides the cross of Christ.) The blame does not singularly lay at the feet of individuals, although individuals are personally responsible for themselves, but in the whole church as an institution. The layman can only go as high as the person behind the pulpit and the person behind the pulpit can only go as high relative to the revelation of the cross.
What does it mean to be converted? The answer is rather simple. The technical definition of it is “to return from error.” What was Peter in error about because after all he was a disciple of Christ? Peter’s mind is what was in error. The error of his mindset is evident towards Christ and his purpose. Later in his discipleship, Peter had a revelation that Christ was the Son of God (Matthew 16:16-17), but that was the extent of his understanding. When it came to what everything means Peter was just as blind as everyone else.
The disciples’ blindness is apparent with their coming to Christ after he spoke parables to the people. They inquired Christ of the meaning of the parables (Luke 8:10). Even after Christ explain to them the mystery behind the parables their understanding was not enlightened. It was only after their conversion that the words of Christ rang in their ears, and their understanding was opened (Luke 24:45).
Their conversion is centered on Christ being crucified, and here is the crux of the dilemma: the mindset of the modern believer is Christ died a couple thousand years ago and all that is required now is to be a follower. However, this is where we are fundamentally wrong! Christ has to be crucified in our “midst” as well. More specifically Christ must be crucified in our heart.
When we are given the Spirit of Christ it is a hard thing to crucify it. Peter did not want Christ to go to the cross and even stood in his way for a moment (Matthew 16:21-23). I can say with the utmost certainty that we do not want to crucify Christ, but to be fully converted WE MUST. Christ is the essence of what it means to be good, and to put that goodness on the cross in order to kill is despicable, but that is what it means to be a sacrificial lamb. Lambs are some of the most gentle and trusting creatures, and Christ was the purest of pure and gentle as a lamb.
God is love, and therefore Christ is love (1 John 4:8). And, to crucify “love” in our hearts is not an easy task. To be certain having the Spirit of Christ does indeed make us a disciple, but just as the original disciples were ignorant of the spiritual truths Christ taught so are we. And, just as some of the disciples asked Christ if they should call down fire from heaven to destroy some of their enemies, we can be likeminded.
Luke 9:54-55 (KJV)
54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
A “mere” disciple or someone who is just a disciple but not fully converted is in danger of walking in apostasy.
John 6:60, 65-66 (KJV)
60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Our understanding of the things of God can only be opened after Christ is crucified in our hearts. The disciples only started to comprehend after Christ was crucified and so it is fitting that our understanding can only be opened this way as well (Luke 24:45). Besides,
No one following Christ wants to crucify him. Crucifying Christ is the last thing a true disciple can imagine. How do can you be certain that this is true? Because, even the original disciples did not want Christ to be crucified to include the one that betrayed Christ.
Matthew 16:21-23 (KJV)
21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
So, no one following Christ wants to crucify him in their heart. It goes against “what seems right,” and “against the grain.” Proverbs 16:25 “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” It seems right to abandon wrong and cling to the good. However, it is the right thing to do, and unless Christ is crucified in our hearts we will never truly understand the mysteries of God. Christ was crucified in Paul’s heart. We know this from the statement he makes in Galatians –
Galatians 2:20 (KJV)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Yes, Christ died upon the cross but he rose again on the third day. When we crucify Christ and bury him in the tomb of our heart, our heart will be opened when he is resurrected out of it. When Christ is resurrected out of our heart, we can then begin to truly understand the mysteries of the kingdom.